Excerpt from Somebody Stole My Iron

The Curious Occurrence of the Comet Cleanser

Mom’s shoes had developed a pervasive stench. There was no other way to describe it. In hindsight, I realize it may have been related to the fact that she continuously wore the same pair of leg-support knee-highs. I was somehow deluded into thinking she washed them occasionally. Now I realize she probably did not. I could have been more proactive about washing them myself, but she always wore them, and did not want an additional pair as she felt the cost was too expensive. It would have been an excellent idea if I had bought her a second pair anyway, and helped her change them each week, and then washed the pair she had been wearing. Why, oh why, didn’t I think of that? It now seems like a no-brainer. Perhaps I was still maneuvering through various and changing forms of denial. In any case, the next best thing was a bottle of foot odor remover. I showed her how to sprinkle some of the white powder in her shoes each morning. This really helped with the odor.

One day, several weeks later, I visited her and noticed the yellow plastic bottle of Comet Cleanser I had brought to clean her sink and toilet sitting on her nightstand in her bedroom. I found this a little odd, so I asked her, “Mom, why is the Comet Cleanser on your bedroom nightstand shelf?”

She replied, “Well, I am sprinkling it in my shoes every morning, just like you told me to!”

She tried so hard to follow directions. My heart went out to her for trying. Well, at least her shoes were very clean inside, and the bottoms of her feet sparkling! I replaced the appropriate bottle of foot odor remover by her bedside, and brought the Comet Cleanser home with me. I am reminded of her every time I clean our toilets!

My mother did not take kindly to what she considered “interference” with her housekeeping. Because she had always been such an immaculate housekeeper, walking into her apartment and seeing her bathroom sink caked with grime and an ever-growing brown ring around the toilet bowl was one more reminder that her brain function was deteriorating. Whenever I thought I could carefully, yet unobtrusively, clean the sink or toilet without her noticing I seized the opportunity. However, I sensed that change loomed on the horizon.

Lessons Learned

Have more awareness than I did, and buy an extra pair of support hose! Wash the extra pair in the sink whenever you visit.

Assisted living facilities typically have a cleaning service, but Mom refused to let them come into her apartment.  Should this be the case for you, and hygiene/sanitary living conditions become an issue, consider arriving while the loved one is otherwise occupied (on a bus ride or in the dining room eating, for example), clean the grime off the sink and toilet, and change the towels and sheets while he or she is away. It is unlikely to even be noticed, but you will have the peace of mind knowing the living space is clean. Bring cleaning supplies with you when you visit and remove them when you leave.

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